Jan 5, 2022 - Podcasts

Rising wages and the big quit

We’re at a unique moment when it comes to wages and the labor market. Historic numbers of U.S. workers in lower-wage sectors like leisure and hospitality are quitting. And that's part of why we’re on the path to a record number of wage increases across the country as we head into 2022.

  • Plus, the pulse of the nation ahead of Jan. 6.
  • And, backlash against the term Latinx.

Guests: Axios' Oriana Gonzalez, Margaret Talev and Russell Contreras.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Sabeena Singhani and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Wednesday, January 5th. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what we’re watching today: the pulse of the nation..ahead of January 6th. Plus, backlash against the term Latinx. But first, rising wages and the big quit is today’s One Big Thing.

We're at a really unique moment when we're thinking about wages and the labor market. Historic numbers of U.S. workers in lower wage sectors, like leisure and hospitality are quitting, which is in part why we're on the path to a record number of wage increases across the country as we head into 2022. Oriana Gonzalez has been covering this for Axios. Hi, Oriana.


NIALA: How many cities and states are we seeing wage increases in?

ORIANA: So analysis from the National Employment Law Project, which is an organization that advocates for low wage and unemployed workers, found that 25 states in the U.S. and 56 cities and counties will be increasing their minimum wages this year.

NIALA: And I know the National Employment Law Project has been among the group of advocates fighting for a $15 wage increase. Is that what wage rate we're talking about here?

ORIANA: So in some states and in some cities, yes. So in two states, California and New York, there are actually going to be increasing their minimum wages to $15 for some employees. On a more local level, 47 cities and counties will actually reach or surpass $15 for their minimum wage. So that includes, for example, D.C. and some localities in California, where the minimum wage is already $15, but it is expected to increase to keep up with the current inflation. In some states, they have laws in place that are making it so that their minimum wage reaches a specific amount by a specific year. That being said, the pandemic has brought up the necessity to increase a minimum wage.

NIALA: And of course, 20 states are still at the federal pay level, which is $7.25 cents an hour. What's going on there?

ORIAAN: Yes. And it hasn't changed since around 2009. However, what we are seeing is that there are some actions taking place that are, in a way, defying this. So for example, in Pennsylvania, the governor's making it so that employees under his jurisdiction have a minimum wage of around $14.

NIALA: So what's your one big takeaway, when it comes to wages in the U.S. right now?

ORIANA: The conversation around the minimum wage has been happening for decades. There's the fight for 15 campaign, which is led by workers of color and is demanding a $15 minimum wage that is actually turning 10 years in 2022. So overall, in a way, this pandemic that we're currently going through has worked to raise the volume around the concerns that employees are bringing up. And on a local level, particularly in cities, municipalities, companies, et cetera, these concerns are being answered.

NIALA: Axios’ Oriana Gonzalez. Thanks, Oriana.

ORIANA: Thanks, Niala.


NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Almost a year after the January 6th attack on the Capitol and exclusive Axios poll finds there's basically no change in the number of Americans who believe president Biden legitimately won the election. Here to explain his white house and politics, managing editor, Margaret Talev. Margaret, why haven't perceptions of the 2020 election results changed?

MARGARET TALEV: Niala this survey was so fascinating. We asked our partners at Momentum of Survey Monkey about a year ago, if they would take the pulse of the electorate on a number of democracy issues, including whether Joe Biden was the legitimately elected president. At that time, 58% of Americans said that he legitimately won 58%. That's less than six and 10. A year later after everything that's happened, including a deadly insurrection, including Joe Biden's inauguration, year of governance, the investigations, the audits that all debunked any lie about widespread voter fraud having any impact on the election after all of that, that number has gone from 58% to 55% of Americans who believe he's the legitimately elected president.

NIALA: And what do we know about what people think about more events like January six happening in the coming months?

MARGARET: I thought this was a really chilling finding. 57% of respondents, that's about half of Republicans, it's seven in 10 Democrats, say they think it's likely there will be more events similar to January 6th in the next few years.

NIALA: Margaret, what do we do with this data? How do we think about this as we head into 2022?

MARGARET: It absolutely underscores a problem that we all already know exists in this country, which is massive partisan divisions across everything, across COVID, across presidential politics, across the meaning of democracy. The challenge for every president going forward and for Joe Biden is to figure out if and how to bridge that. 37% of those who took this survey say they've lost faith in American democracy. 10% said they'd never had any faith. And the challenge for all of America's political leaders is to try to figure out how to restore that faith before it's too late.

NIALA: So a lot to think about. Margaret Talev is managing editor for politics at Axios.

MARGARET: Thank you.

NIALA: Just a quarter of Americans who self identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard the term Latinx and just 3% of them say they use that to describe themselves. That's according to a Pew Center poll from 2020. Which is one reason why there's been a recent pushback against the term in places like a Miami Herald op-ed and from Arizona representative Ruben Gallego. Axios’ race and justice reporter Russell Contreras has been tracking this debate. Hey Russ, how did this term originate?

RUSSELL CONTRERAS: Evidence shows the term came about around 2004 when academics started using it. There's always been a long debate in academic circles on how we should approach the word Latino. It is a masculine Spanish word. So there've been attempts in the past to create a more inclusive term. Out of that, Latinx was born and really started getting used over the last decade.

NIALA: And mostly this is being used by politicians, particularly Democrats - is that when we started to see this backlash?

RUSSELL: Well, we started seeing it in academic and then social media circles. And more recently, Democratic politicians started picking it up because they engage in more middle-class to wealthy, college-educated circles where the term Latinx was being used interchangeably with Latinos. So in this last presidential election, you saw Democratic politicians use Latinx more than they have in previous elections. When politicians go and they talk to the abuela part-time bus driver in Española, New Mexico, or the mechanic out in McAllen, Texas, they look and hear the word Latinx with confusion. They don’t understand where that comes from. They sometimes will identify as Hispanic, Hispano, Latino, Mexican American, Cuban American. So Latinx to them is a foreign term being imposed to them by either a politician or an academic who they have almost no interaction with?

NIALA: What did the Miami Herald op-ed say, Russ, about why this shouldn't be used?

RUSSELL: Well, the Miami Herald said, quote, “Latinx failed to gain buy-in from the people it's supposed to empower.” And they said, “It's time to retire it from official use.” But they're hitting on something real- Right now, Latinos continue to struggle with poverty. They continue to struggle with income inequality, and they continue to struggle with failing schools. Many activists say this debate about terms is a middle-class bourgeois debate that does not address many of our concerns in the community. It needs to get pushed aside for more important issues.

NIALA: Axios’ race and justice reporter Russell Contreras. Thanks Russ.

RUSSELL: Thank you.

NIALA: Before we go today: hundreds of weary travelers in the Virginia area - including Sen. Tim Kaine - were stranded for more than 24 hours yesterday on I-95 in freezing weather because of a winter storm. Luckily everyone seems to have made it out mostly unscathed…but it sparked a conversation among our podcast staff about what emergency supplies you pack in your car or bag: mine are potato chips and chocolate - and if my mother is involved, sandwiches. Sen. Kaine, by the way, was down to an orange - that he got from a family also stuck – and no liquids by the end of his saga. What are your emergency supplies? Text me at (202) 918-4893 and we’ll share your collective wisdom with all of us later this week. That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can also always send us feedback by emailing podcasts @ axios.com. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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